76 The sword of nightmares
"...? What's wrong Ashy? You got so quiet all of sudden. What happened to your usual talkative personality?"
Drya had entered the gates of the castle and was now walking across the entrance hallway. The castle had no illumination and the entire place looked like it had been ravaged. All of the curtains were shredded and broken pieces of the structure were lying all around the floor. The lights of the sun barely did any help against the heavy shadows that covered the entire place.
"This place is just as chaotic as ever... We really should hire a housekeeper, don't you agree Ashy?"
"You know, even if you don't speak I can still feel your pain. I rather you chat with me a bit so I don't get too lonely but it won't really make any difference for you if you stay quiet."
"Fine, fine... Suffer in silence like a spoiled kid... Whatever pleases you."
[My sister is going to destroy you...]
"...!! Oh!! Finally feel like talking!! Go on, let it all out!"
[She will never forgive you for what you did... She will hunt you and bury you...]
"Right, right... Stick-girl ad her amazing magic stick! I'm sure she will be really mad!"
[Laugh all you want... But just keep in mind that you just doomed yourself... You think capturing me will give you control over her... But there is no force in this universe that can control Evlin...]
"Is that so...?"
[... Is that so.]
"Haha, you even answer the same way she does now! You really are her sister!"
[... You think I'm bluffing...]
"Eh, not really... I just couldn't care less... Everything is already set to deal with her. Stick-girl can come after me with all the anger she wants. When everything is over, she will just be another tool to be used by me and my kin."
[We will see about that...]
"Oh!! Confident arent you? That will just provide an even better taste once I get stick-girl to lick my shoes and follow our orders."
[What do the demons even want Evlin anyway?]
Drya continued to walk until she was in front of a large door at the end of the hallway. She opened the doors and entered a place that in the past would be a ballroom. But now, it was nothing but a zone filled with sleeping demons resting their wounds.
The whole place was an open space filled with creatures of all sizes and colors, all bearing some kind of deformation or injuries. They were surrounding some kind of block of stone that was bearing a sharp object piercing its surface.
[Where are we...?]
"I guess you could call it the recovery room..."
[Demons have a recovery room...?]
"I told you didn't I? We are constantly being attacked by those guys that wear blessed metal. Those of us that are lucky enough to survive can return here to recover their energy. The barrier of the castle stops any human from entering, so we are all safe and sound in here."
[... I bet Evlin can break your barrier...]
"Yes, yes, Evlin is amazing, I get it... She's going to come, kick our butts, save your life and then everyone will eat ice cream together. Now please stay quiet. It's about to start."
Ashley, as an astral projection from outside her body, noticed something approaching the stone block. It was a girl about her height and with short bob red hair. She was wearing the same clothes Ashley was wearing before fusing with Drya.
[What... What's going on...???]
"This is our master... The leader of all demons... And the guy that ordered us to capture your sister."
[Guy...? Why does he look... Like that??]
"It's his curse... His appearance can't be seen by a human soul. So he takes the form of the person in this world you hate the most."
[... I see...]
"Mmmm... You're releasing some nice negative emotions... I wonder who is it that you're seeing..."
The leader of the demons takes the form of the one those that see him hate the most, so right now, Ashley was looking at the one person in her life that she hated more than anyone, herself.
She observed as a figure that looked exactly like her approached the sharp object in the stone. Looking closer, it was possible to notice that the object was some kind of sword drenched in black. Both the blade and the holder were of the same color as Daren's fur when he is in his lion form.
The demon leader picked up the sword from the stone and started to release energy waves around the room.
[What's happening?? What's that thing?]
"That thing is the devourer of whispers... The demon leader's trusted weapon. It eats the souls of the opponents right before it kills them. Their pain and suffering right before their death gets engraved in the blade and anyone who holds it can listen to their agony!"
[This is disgusting...]
"I know right? I love it!!"
"Anyway... Our boss is a very generous guy. He absorbs the power of the sword and then uses his own ability to share it with us. Look at our hands."
Ashley listened to Drya's command and indeed, her hands that had been almost burned to ashes from the blessed shield's energy were now completely recovered.
"Good as new!!"
Ashley looked around and noticed that the demons in the room were also slowly regenerating their wounds. Scars, lost limbs, bruises, burns, any possible kind of injury was little by little starting to disappear and returning the creatures to their original state.
The demons finished recovering and proceeded to leave the room. However, Drya decided to stay and after she was the only one left she approached the demon leader.
"What do you want...? I'm busy..."
Even his voice sounded just like Ashley's voice. Ashley was feeling really strange while observing a plant version of herself and a human version of herself talking to each other despite neither of them actually being her.
"I have a present for you!"
"Yeap! I managed to capture the sister of the crossbow magician!"
"!!! The crossbow magician?? Where?? Where is she??"
Drya gestured her hand as if she was doing a thumbs up and pointed her finger at her head while releasing a wide grin.
The demon leader looked at Drya as if she was crazy for a moment but then he noticed something behind her. Ashley could feel it, he was looking at her.
"I see... Very well done..."
"Thanks, boss! So, how do you want to exploit her?"
"Can she feel any pain? Can we torture her?"
"Mmm... Since I have control of her body right now, she won't feel anything even if you stab me. Shes basically a bystander at this moment."
"I see... That's a shame..."
"But we can still give her some psychological torment if you want! I could use her body and make her watch as I devour some humans! I'm sure it will give her plenty of fond memories to remember!!"
"Mmmm... Not yet... Save it for when we need to use her to convince the crossbow mage to work for us. It will be more effective when she sees her sister being tortured for the first time!"
"As you wish!"
Ashley was terrified. They were going to torture her to anger Evlin and force her to work for them. They would also take this chance to feed on her suffering. She kept thinking that she really would have been better off burning to death inside Ria's barrier after all.
"What's wrong Ash? That's the part where you act all brave and go "Mehhh!! Mah shishter will shave me!! Mehhh!!", or something..."
[I hate you... I hate you so much!!!]
"Ooowwww!! Thank's baby girl!!"
"Anyway... Leave me be for now... I need to recharge the sword again... Need to find more whispers to refill it..."
"Are you going to fight some demon-slayers again? Want me to come too?"
"No... As long as you have this girl inside you, your safety is our priority... Stay in the castle until the mage comes to save her sister. We can't risk losing our best card."
"Oho!!! I'm feeling very important right now!!"
"Hmpf... Don't get used to it... After we get the mage to work for us you will go back to just being another minor demon..."
"Awww boss... You're no fun... Oh! Hey!! Can I get one?"
"Sure... But just one and make it quick..."
"Thanks, boss!!! You're the best!!! I love ya!!!"
Drya formed a pair of leaf-blades with her arms and pointed at the demon leader.
She then proceeded to pierce the demon leader in the heart with both swords, and since Ashley saw the leader as herself right now, it looked as if Drya was empaling her body and spilling her guts out.
Ashley kept screaming inside her mind while watching the image of herself being trashed by Drya's leaf blades.
"Aaaahhh... That felt good..."
[Wha- What are you doing??]
"Mmm...? I told you didn't I? The boss looks like the image of the one you hate the most... And to me, he looks like one of the knights that killed my best friend. So every now and then I ask him to let me gut him!"
[E- Every now and then...????]
The image of the empaled Ashley on the floor started to stand up after being attacked and her body began to recover itself. Before she noticed, the leader was completely back to normal.
"The boss has the strongest regenerative power among demons. And it gets even stronger while he holds his sword. Basically you can kill him as much as you want to vent your stress and he will just come back like if nothing happened."
[Wha... That's... That's... ]
"Pretty fun right? I bet you felt good watching me kill the person you hated the most as well right?"
"Are you done...?"
"Yeah!! Thanks, boss!! I feel much better now."
"Anytime... I'm glad my power also blocks pain... I heard your blades can hurt quite a lot..."
"Aaaawww, boss, you're making me blush!!"
Ashley was living a nightmare. These people were acting like killing and torturing was just a casual occurrence to them. How long would she have to stay like this? Would she have to watch Drya killing an image of herself every day for the rest of her life?
"Well... I'm off... Have fun with our beloved guest..."
"Thanks boss!! Bye, bye!!"
The demon leader left the ballroom leaving Drya and Ashley behind in the empty room. As soon as he did, Drya dropped her smile and started to grin widely like a little kid while jumping all over the room with her vine legs.
"Yes! Yes!! Yes!!! Did you hear that Ashy!!?? The boss is going to treat me like a princess from now on!! All because I have you inside of me!!! This is just the best!!!"
[This is the worst... Why do you people even want Evlin in the first place?]
"Come one Ashy, you're a smart girl! Think about it!"
"You remember right? Right before we entered the kingdom you defeated a high-demon all by yourself!"
"I'm just a dryad! And yet we managed to take down one of the strongest levels of demons there is! You know why?"
[... Because you were feeding on my pain...]
"Correct!! And why was I feeding on your pain?"
[Because we were fused...]
"Correct again! So. Final question. We need stick-girl's help because..."
"Ding! Ding! Ding! You figured it out!!"
Ashley finally understood what was happening. The same thing that happened to Drya, a demon having its power boosted by a human inside of her and being able to reach much higher levels of power, they were planning to use Evlin's recreation magic to repeat the process all over again.
[You want to create an army of fused demons...]
"That's my girl!!! I knew you were smart!!"
Drya leaped on a window and watched the sun setting on the horizon. She placed her hand on the glass and started to talk.
"Once we get stick-girl's magic on our side..."
The light started to disappear and the whole kingdom was now covered in the darkness of the night.
"This whole world... Will belong to the demons!"